5:00am on a Saturday morning, a time when normal people unaffected by the addictive compulsion to fish are still sleeping; the alarm clock sounds and a bleary angler rapidly dresses, picks up the minimal tackle required for wandering spin fishing and by 5:30 is good to go.
At the appointed 5:30 meeting time Pete pulls up outside the Vicarage, and off we head to the canal. The Grand Union is normally pretty beneficent to us when perch fishing, but on this morning it's a slow start. The first sign of things to come is when we realise that Pete, who'd done a tackle shop run to buy some traces for us earlier in the week, discovers he's left them at home. After ferreting around in my bag I find only two wire traces, which in a snag filled canal may not be enough; and so it proved.
We commenced fishing at a favourite spot, but after the best part of 40 minutes no perch were forthcoming. Of greater concern was the fact that in that timeframe we also both snagged and lost our lures with accompanying traces. Because the canal has a reasonable head of pike, Pete made the 40 minute round trip back home to recover the mislaid wire traces and I walked to another likely swim and sat around drinking coffee and waiting for Pete's return.
The move to the new swim proved productive, with instant plucks and follows before Pete connected with the first perch of the day. Not a big fish, but on a day when the fish seemed reluctant and we seemed cursed, a welcome blank saver. I also managed a perch even smaller than Pete's fish.
Things remained slow, and after quite a bit of chopping and changing of spinners we walked back to the original swim, a classic "perchy" bridge with nearby moored barges and bankside piling - undoubtedly where Crabtree would have fished.
This resulted in a brace of bigger perch, one for Pete and one for me. Although not giants these were "proper" perch, with muscular shoulders and proud erect dorsal fins - perch with a belligerent attitude and classically good looks.
It was after this quick fire brace that the biggest excitement of the day occurred, which - in keeping with the session- had a frustrating conclusion. A marauding pike took a liking to Pete's silver spinner, and after a few minutes of thrashing around was just being drawn over the rim of the net when it threw the hooks, which flew several feet out of the water and scraped the side of my cheek before landing on the bankside grass. So near, yet so (annoyingly) far. Fish- particularly predators- can be a capricious adversary.
We finished the day with a few more casts in a final swim, which resulted in one more perch to me, leaving the final score as three perch each, not a bad result from a difficult day that was interrupted for 40 minutes by the "traces left at home" episode.
By 9:00am we were back at our respective homes, planning the return match. Pike be warned: this thing isn't over, yet.